While it took a few days, the Habs have made a splash on the free agent market, announcing the signing of winger Tyler Toffoli to a four-year deal with a $4.25M cap hit. The deal does not carry any trade protection and breaks down as follows:
Once again, the reason for putting the bulk of the salary in the middle of the deal is to avoid the player losing as much money to salary deferral for the upcoming season as well as the eventual decrease in capped escrow percentage. The cap hit on Toffoli’s deal is actually a bit lower than the $4.6M he had on his last contract.
The 28-year-old split last season between Los Angeles and Vancouver, who dealt a quality prospect in Tyler Madden and a second-round pick to get him back in February. He made an immediate impact with the Canucks, picking up six goals and four assists in ten games before the pandemic shut down the rest of the schedule. Between that and his time with the Kings, Toffoli had 24 goals and 20 assists in 64 games; it was the fourth time in his career that he had at least 23 goals in a single season. For context, that would have been first on the Canadiens last season. Toffoli also has strong possession numbers and a shoot-first mentality which should fit in well in Montreal.
Toffoli was hampered by a high ankle sprain in the playoffs that caused him to miss ten games and he wasn’t 100% recovered when he returned. However, he still managed to put up two goals and two assists in the seven contests and with there still being the better part of three months until the 2020-21 season begins, there is plenty of time for him to fully heal.
With this signing, GM Marc Bergevin has brought in a capable secondary scorer on a team that isn’t exactly loaded in proven firepower. Claude Julien will have some roster decisions ahead of him as right now, Toffoli is likely the third right winger on the depth chart behind Brendan Gallagher and Josh Anderson. At this price tag though, he should be in their top six which could push Anderson to his off-side, a position he has spent some time at in the past while Toffoli could shift over as well.
From a salary cap perspective, Bergevin has said that he wants to leave around $1.5 million in space. It’s hard to see them being able to do that unless there’s a trade in place. Depending on the various roster iterations, Montreal pegs to be anywhere from about $350,000 to $1 million over the cap and it’s hard to make up that much money by having waiver-exempt players shuffle to Laval on non-game days. On the surface, Jordan Weal and Noah Juulsen could be the most affected by this; Montreal could save $1.075 million by sending Weal down if he cleared waivers while carrying eight defencemen seems less likely now which may have Juulsen on the outside looking in.
Some small tweaking may need to be done but otherwise, this may very well be it for Montreal’s offseason spending aside from maybe a move for Laval up front.